Friday, July 8, 2011

The Friday Five

My parents worked so The Brother and I were left to our own devices for several hours each day. As the elder, six years my senior, The Brother was reminded on a daily basis to "watch your sister." I learned early on it was easier to embrace the idea of whatcha mama don't know, your mama don't mind than feel the fist of an elder sibling.  For the most part, I was a near perfect child in conduct and lay claim to guilt only by association.

Memories of these escapades helped me make the decision to give up my career as a computer programmer and stay home to take care of my children. I know first hand what kids can do left with their own imagination and without adult supervision.  Sometimes I'm amazed we actually survived childhood.  Five things I did that my mama doesn't know about.

1. A lot of the things I did with The Brother usually began with the phrase, "Hey, Sh*thead, wanna see something funny?" For the longest time, I thought that was my name. And as I said I learned early on, it was easier to go along to get along than to suffer the wrath. "Sure!"

The Brother took me into the bathroom. He had a book of matches and a can of lighter fluid. He swirled some of the lighter fluid into the toilet, lit a match, and tossed the match into the toilet. Flames shot out of the toilet higher than the toilet tank. The Brother flushed the toilet and the flames receded like a whirling dervish. The Brother was right. It was funny.

2. When I was 9 or 10 years old, my mother had the kitchen remodeled. The sink was a gleaming, stainless steel affair with a sprayer. My parents had gone out for the evening. I don't remember how the incident started, most likely we were washing dishes. That is, The Brother washed the dishes, and I stood on a stool and dried them. The Brother had control of the sink and the sprayer. I was soaked a few times. My only retaliation was to run to the bathroom to fill up a Dixie cup of water to toss at The Brother.  It was not effective. After another dousing, I ran to the bathroom and found a plastic basin under the sink. I'd show him. I filled the basin and then quickly ran across the hall through the archway into the living room where I couldn't be seen from the kitchen. I stayed very quiet. I knew The Brother would come looking for me, and I'd be ready.  As expected the quiet proved too much. The Brother went to the bathroom door to see what I was up to. Not there. Logic turned him and brought him through the arch. I swung my basin back and let the water fly.

The Brother neatly side-stepped the rushing water. The wall was not so nimble, and the wave crashed against it with a deafening splash. It was my first lesson in physics. A body in motion can easily outrun a basin of water tossed at it. I reached the conclusion faster than the water leaving the basin that this outcome was bad, very bad, and not nearly as funny as it had played out in my mind.  My parents were due home any minute. My face crumpled, and I began to cry. "Don't worry," said The Brother adding his term of endearment for me. He brought out some old towels. While I mopped the wall and rug, he went up to the attic and brought down the box fan. In no time the wall was dry, and the water didn't leave a mark on the wallpaper.

3. The Brother's room was on the second floor of our small, Cape Cod style house. Up fourteen steps. On one side, a wall. On the other, a decorative series of open, pine shelves that also formed a wall of the living room. My mother called the shelves "peek-a-boos"  My mother was a collector of glass figurines and some of her treasures were displayed on the shelves.

I was four or five years old when The Brother thought it would be fun to stuff me in a cardboard box and push me down the carpeted steps. This was in the early days of the NASA Mercury missions. I was squashed into the cardboard capsule along with a pillow and a favorite stuffed panda bear. The cardboard flaps were sealed shut in an over, under, over under fashion. I heard a muffled countdown. Ten, nine, eight...The cardboard box slid down the first couple of steps. All was going well until either I or the panda bear shifted weight and then the box bounced down the stairs ass over teakettle and crashed into the wall below.

I wedged my head through the opening, the box at a standstill my world still whirling by me. The Brother called to me from the top of the landing. "'S'alright?" "S'alright." The correct Quick Draw McGraw cartoon response. Amazingly, not one knickknack was displaced from its perch on the peek-a-boos.

4. Across an empty field, and kitty corner to the back of our house was a brick house. A lovely home filled with nine children.  Their house faced a scenic highway. Next to their side yard/field and to the corner of a main road, was a wooded lot. The woods were called The Little Woods to distinguish them from the large woods across the main road that led to the town forest. Next to The Little Woods and kitty corner to the brick house was another house where the children had a wooden Davy Crockett play fort. The oldest boy who lived in this house even had a genuine, Davy Crockett 'coon skin cap.  To get to the fort, you crossed the field by way of a path though The Little Woods and you would emerge behind the fort.

The Brother and I were with the older boys and girls that lived in the brick house. We had made our way into The Little Woods into a depression the older kids called the Lion's Den. This depression sloped down to the scenic highway below. From the Lion's Den, one could not be seen from the highway, but one had a glimpse of the roadway below. Someone had some water balloons and some bright spark thought it would be fun to lob the balloons onto the highway.  There was an occasional squealing of tires and the toot of any angry horn. Until someone hurled a balloon and it splatted across the windshield of a state police car. Someone whispered "Holy Sh*t." which was followed by the slam of  the cruiser door.

The Brother grabbed one of my hands and one of the other kids grabbed my other, and we flew through the Little Woods to the path. I was suspended between the two older kids, my chubby, five year old legs, churning air as we raced up the path to the brick house.

Someone opened the wood bulkhead doors and we tumbled into the cellar. Along one wall of cellar, was a large, built in storage cupboard. The cupboard doors were swung open and I was boosted in followed by the other kids. We spent the afternoon huddled in the dark with the sound of our heartbeats thrumming through our heads.

5. By far the funniest of funnies was a fall day towards dusk. I had assented I indeed wanted to see something funny. An elderly, neighbor lady two houses down from our house on the opposite side of our dead end road, had been raking leaves. As it was getting dark, she quit for the day and went into her house.  Next door to the elderly lady's house, and kitty corner to our house was a house that had a storm drain in front of it.

You could stand on the grate and could see the dark, oily water below your feet. The Brother had a cigarette lighter, and a water-soluble cherry bomb with a long fuse. Yup, you in the cheap seats guessed it. The fuse was lit, the cherry bomb plopped into the water. The Brother grabbed my hand and raced towards the shadow of a flowering crab apple tree in our front yard. I held tightly to his hand as I sailed like a kite behind him. My red, P.F. Flyers pumping furiously in the air. We sat down under the tree, our breaths whistling in the air.

There was a slight tremor and then a roar. A column of water shot out of the storm drain, thirty feet into the air. Hand to God, it was thirty feet high, and it fell back to earth like a cloud burst.

The elderly lady came rushing out of her house and screamed from her front porch, "What the hell is going on?"

I'm not sure what was funnier: The column of water, deluge, or the what the hell from the elderly lady. It must have been the adrenaline rush. The Brother clapped  his hand across my mouth and pushed me face first into the grass to stifle my hyena laugh.

So 'fess up. What have you done that your mama doesn't know about it? Don't worry. I won't tell. Remember. Whatcha mama don't know, your mama don't mind.


  1. You're lucky to still be alive!

    Nothing's coming to mind at the moment, mostly because I was so bad at being bad, I always seemed to get caught.

  2. Lol. My older sister and I knocked a chunk out of the wall with one of those rubber balls you buy from the machines at the front of the grocery store. We glued the sheetrock back to the wall with elmer's glue, and she never knew.

    We'd also drag my barbie tricycle out to the pasture where there was a steep drop off. We'd put our feet on the handlebars and fly down the hill.